If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.We stand always in the great stream of time, mostly unaware of what flows past. Unaware of our place in that flow. For me, being with my family lets me feel that flow.
I never knew my Great Grandmother, who passed away years before I was born. But I know people who knew her, and they connect us, and join the generations. Mom wrote about her grandmother, sixty-odd years ago:
Perhaps I suffer from a lack of imagination, but it's often difficult to see past generations as the same as we are: the triumph of a good grade, the excitement of a first date, the arrival of a baby. Reading this, I can not only see these, I can see Great Grandmother in the palm of my hand.My Grandmother
Written for a Rhetoric II class taught by Miss Sally Lacy at St. Joseph, Missouri Junior College, Spring 1947 by Granddaughter, Mom Borepatch
After she graduated from gymnasium [high school], she was sent to a ”high government college” in St. Petersburg, near where her brother Richard was a professor of languages. Several attractive buildings and a neat lawn made up the school, but it was cut off from the rest of the world by a high stone wall. Only on Saturdays, when the girls could go out with friends, and on Sundays, when friends could come to visit, was that isolation broken.
In spite of the fact that the girls were strictly supervised, they had a grand time, as all college students do. About one hundred girls slept in the big dormitory room, with some of the more privileged, including Grandmother, in alcoves along one wall. They ate and studied downstairs, went to classes six hours a day, strolled along the sunny paths, chatted with friends or played croquet during their few leisure moments. Grandmother recalled that the school did not have the facilities to allow the girls frequent baths. Therefore, once a month they were given half a holiday and driven in carriages to a Turkish bath, where they had a wonderful time soaking, steaming and washing their hair.
One of the special occasions when they wore their best uniforms was a large ball, the much dreamed-about main event of the year. The professors, mostly army officers, brought their cadets over for the evening. Grandmother must have made a charming picture, with her blue eyes, black hair, creamy white skin, dancing with a cadet to a Strauss waltz or a mazurka. The excitement of the ball did not die down for weeks afterwards, but school went on all the same.
She loved music and was a skillful pianist. One time she played a concerto with full orchestra for a school program, and another time she played the outside piano in a four piano concerto, and was scared to death, she said. She also sang in the chorus which Balakiereff, one of Anton Rubenstein’s concert masters, came once a week to direct. The chorus was so good that when Rubenstein gave a concert at the school, he had it sing too. Afterwards, he shook hands with each girl and Grandmother said that her hand was lost in his like a wave in the sea. His hands were so large that he easily played three notes over an octave. He was such a powerful pianist that he took his own specially-built piano on his tours because he always broke several strings on an ordinary instrument during a concert. After all these years Grandmother still was thrilled by her contact with genius.
Her certificate allowed her to teach at elementary schools and gymnasium any where in the country, which at that time included all of Russia and half of Poland. Her old gymnasium offered her a position, so she returned to Lodz to teach Russian. She lived with her brother and his wife again, and when after a few years they came to America, she came too. Interestingly, she said she was an American and so would not teach any of us any of the European languages she knew.
Here she met and married my grandfather, who also came from Poland. She laughed and said it seemed funny that both she and her husband were born in the same country and had lived with a few miles of each other, but had had to come to St. Joseph to meet and marry. Here my uncle and father were born. Later the family moved to New York City where the boys went to school. They returned to St. Joseph when my grandfather died, and he was buried here. The boys grew up, married and had children, and here my grandmother has continued to live. It has been a blessing to have her with us.
[My grandmother died in 1952 at the age of 86, missed by all of her family and friends]
The family is one of nature's masterpieces.- George Santayana